Opinion — My top four albums of 2022

Andie Balenger

While I would not describe myself as a music connoisseur, I do listen to a lot of music. Not only does my taste in music know no bounds in terms of era, but I also have no particular genre that I predominantly vibe with.

I like to keep my horizons open and often find myself stumbling upon a variety of tunes.

However, when I reflected on the albums that were released in 2022, I found that I clung to those that were released by mainstream artists with well-established careers in the industry. While I am not necessarily ashamed of myself for sticking to what I know well, I wish I had made more time to explore the “underground” artists who released albums this year.

But before I get to explore these lesser-known musical stylings, here are my top four albums of the year based solely on the amount of time I spent listening to them.


  1. “RENAISSANCE” by Beyoncé

Beyoncé is an icon. With “RENAISSANCE” set to drop at the end of July, I was certain that Queen Bey was about to deliver the soundtrack of my summer.

After a first listen, however, I was unsure of my feelings towards the album’s dance/house genre. To be fair, the album is unlike anything Beyoncé has ever produced. But after re-listening, I began to fall in love with the album’s sound — especially after discovering the meaning behind its creation and further studying the lyrics.

The entirety of “RENAISSANCE” feels like an hour-long setlist at a popular dance club. If I were having a night out on the town with my friends, I would totally be okay with the DJ playing Track 1 through Track 16 without interruption. 

The songs meld perfectly together and have a quality that gives you an irresistible urge to just move — an urge to move without judgment or fear.

In creating the album, Beyoncé said that she strived to honor the Black dance music and club culture that erupted after the age of 70s disco. Her music, in both lyric and sound, did just that. While it is not narrative in the sense that “Lemonade” is, the album as a whole paints a beautiful picture of the dance culture and energetic sound that continues to influence musicians to this day. 

Beyoncé also noted that she was inspired by her gay cousin, who she referred to as “Uncle Johnny,” and other members of the LGBTQ+ community that helped define this genre of music. This can be seen in my favorite song, “ALIEN SUPERSTAR,” which includes a monologue by Beyoncé that says:

“We dress a certain way, we walk a certain way, we talk a certain way, we paint a certain way, we make love a certain way, you know all of these things we do in a different, unique, specific way that is personally ours.”

So, while “RENAISSANCE” is not the first album I turn to when queuing up songs for my daily walk to campus — due mainly to the upbeat and eclectic nature of the music — I do enjoy the album when I am feeling energized and looking to have some fun.


  1. “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers” by Kendrick Lamar

Before I get into Kendrick Lamar’s newest album, I need to preface by stating that I have been binge-listening to all of his albums as of late. I have even gone beyond just listening to his music and have actively searched for podcasts and YouTube videos that dissect the many themes of his albums.

Yes, I have been obsessed. But for good reason. I truly believe the man is a phenomenal storyteller and a lyrical genius. But, based on the content of “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers,” Lamar would be ashamed of me and my infatuation with his music. 

While Lamar’s recent release pales in comparison to earlier releases like “good kid, m.A.A.d city” and “DAMN.”, the content of this album is unique in that it is not only a deep reflection on the faults within his career, but it also addresses the darkness of his childhood and his life now as a father. 

The album opens with “United In Grief,” where Lamar discloses that he has “been going through something” and that we should “be afraid.”

This is not a warning to be taken lightly, because Lamar then uses every subsequent word on the album to express the thoughts and feelings he has internalized regarding social, political and personal issues over the past five years. Nothing is safe from Lamar as he covers topics such as the COVID-19 pandemic, transgender rights, his daddy issues and domestic disputes.

Most notably, “We Cry Together” left me and every other listener jaw-dropped upon first listening. 

Despite being dubbed the greatest rapper of all time by many, Lamar seems to remove that crown and smash it into a million pieces on this album. The album art even depicts Lamar wearing a crown made of twisted thorns, which is reminiscent of the one worn by Jesus Christ when he was crucified. 

This dethroning is a notable shift for Lamar, considering he proclaimed himself to be a king on “To Pimp a Butterfly” — his 2015 album and magnum opus. But just like all of his other albums, “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers” displays a level of honesty that is unparalleled in comparison to other musicians. 

Perhaps that is why I enjoy his music so much.


  1. “Harry’s House” by Harry Styles

The moment all of the fangirls have been waiting three long years for… the release of Harry Styles’ third studio album as a solo artist, “Harry’s House”.

I would be lying if I said I did not cry outside of my place of employment while I listened to the album for the first time, but do you blame me? The album is literally a collection of the cutest love songs I have ever heard.

I like to refer to “Harry’s House” as a homage to love. Not only does Styles proclaim his love to his significant other on this album, but he also expresses a deep love for things such as drinking wine, eating breakfast and driving aimlessly.

While the tone of the album dramatically shifts at times, creating a great balance of upbeat dance music to heart-wrenching ballads — “Matilda” still makes me cry — what I find to be most brilliant is how poetic its lyrics are. 

When studying lyrics, I have found that musicians most often will write in complete or near-complete sentences. This is not a bad thing, for it creates a sense of storytelling that may be essential to the overall theme of an album.

However, Styles does quite the opposite on this album. He instead chooses to employ a writing style that uses one to three words in completing a single idea. This technique is best illustrated in “Keep Driving,” which opens with Styles singing: “Black and white film camera, yellow sunglasses, ashtray, swimming pool, hot wax, jump off the roof.”

Style sings these lines as if they were a written poem, emphasizing the first syllable of most of the words to create a lulling effect. This subtle intonation and rhythm it creates can help convey the meaning of the song, or poem, to listeners.

Listen, I understand that Harry Styles is not for everyone, so I do not blame you for scoffing at my album ranking. But “Harry’s House” had a chokehold on me for a month. I did not listen to anything else, so it deserves to be acknowledged here.


  1. “Gemini Rights” by Steve Lacy

Quite the opposite of “Harry’s House,” Steve Lacy’s “Gemini Rights” is the break-up album of the summer. 

Some of you may know Lacy due to the song “Bad Habit” going viral on TikTok. Even better, you may have seen the videos of silent audiences at his concerts — because people bought tickets after discovering “Bad Habit” and presumably refused to listen to the rest of the album.

But as someone who has been listening to Lacy for quite a while now, with some of his work from five to six years ago being my favorite, I am here to defend Lacy and his prowess as a musician and producer in the industry.

Although “Gemini Rights” has a 35-minute runtime, which is short considering it is a full-length studio album, Lacy predominantly wrote and produced the album himself. This may appear to be an impressive feat to some, but Lacy has been mixing music and sampling beats since he was a teenager

For instance, Lacy used the Garageband app on an iPhone to create the project “Steve Lacy’s Demo.” Even further, his album before “Gemini Rights” was created on his laptop. Despite the lack of advanced technology, the quality of both of these works holds up in comparison to music that was produced in a legitimate recording studio.

Lacy’s work as a musician also extends beyond his own songs. He is credited as a producer on several popular rap tracks, including “PRIDE.” by Kendrick Lamar, “911 / Mr. Lonely” by Tyler, the Creator and “Jet Fuel” by Mac Miller. 

My respect for Lacy’s contributions to the rap and R&B genres is why I had such high expectations for “Gemini Rights” when the album was first teased — and he did not disappoint.

Strumming guitar on most of the album’s tracks, Lacy recounts a recent break-up with his boyfriend and his search for new love. The album is undoubtedly relatable, and Lacy has such a unique voice and musical style that the tunes easily get stuck in your head. 

While “Bad Habit” is no doubt the most popular song on the album — and is even Grammy-nominated — the song is not even in my top three. My go-to track is “Sunshine,” which features the vocal stylings of Fousheé, the album’s co-writer. The song has a great opening beat, the lyrics are beautiful, and I have listened to it every day since it was released. 

Other great tracks include “Mercury” and “Helmet,” both of which I find myself listening to on repeat.

So before passing judgment on the TikTok sensation that is Lacy’s “Bad Habit,” be sure to give the entire album a listen. I also encourage you to listen to some of his older works, which will help you appreciate the stylings he flaunts on “Gemini Rights.”